Stamford Bridge, London
February 9, 2013; 15:00 GMT
Chelsea have been in abysmal form of late, while Wigan Athletic aren’t doing too well either, and on Saturday these two teams will clash at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea need to start winning if they are to eventually finish in the top four; Wigan need to pick up as many points as possible in their remaining games, even against the bigger clubs, if they are to do an encore and stave off relegation.
Chelsea just can’t seem to win a game lately. Losses to Queens Park Rangers and Newcastle most recently, while draws against Southapton and Reading have seen them pick up merely 22 points in the 13 games that Rafa Benitez has been in charge; this is the lowest return for any manager under Roman Abramovich. The pressure on the manager is rising with each passing game, with the fans clearly unhappy with the state of affairs they find their club in.
Roberto Martinez isn’t in a better position either. Wigan have won just once in their last 12 games; a run of form similar to what they had last season when they registered merely a solitary win in 14 games between December and March. Thereafter, they went on to win 7 of their last nine games to remain in the Premier League but Wigan fans would ideally want their team to start picking up points now, rather than be embroiled in a relegation dogfight towards the end.
Chelsea will be without the services of their captain, as John Terry has been ruled out for the game against Wigan because of a knee problem, while John Obi Mikel and Victor Moses remain unavailable because of their involvement in the African Cup of Nations. Demba Ba will be available for selection despite breaking his nose against Newcastle, but Petr Cech is doubtful after breaking his finger in the last game. David Luiz played for Brazil in the midweek game against England but is still expected to make the starting line-up on Saturday.
Chelsea will continue with their 4-2-3-1 system. Ross Turnbull is expected to take the field in case Benitez decides to give Petr Cech a rest; a back-four of Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill and Cole are likely to start in defence. The manager may decide to give Frank Lampard an off day and field David Luiz along with Ramires in the middle, as the veteran midfielder has been involved in most games recently and even played for the national team in midweek. The return of Eden Hazard will see him start on the left, with Mata in the centre and Oscar on the right, behind Fernando Torres.
Probable Starting Line-up (4-2-3-1): Turnbull; Azpilicueta, Ivanovic, Cahill, Cole; Luiz, Ramires; Mata, Hazard, Oscar; Torres
Roberto Martinez has confirmed that centre-back Gary Caldwell is doubtful for the match against Chelsea and will undergo a late test, as he is suffering from a hip problem. Fellow centre-back Antolin Alcaraz is yet to recover from a groin problem, but Arouna Koné will be available for selection having returned from international duty after Ivory Coast were eliminated from the African Cup of Nations.
Wigan will take the field in a 3-4-3 formation, with Scharner, Caldwell (if fit) and Figueroa forming the three-man backline in front of goalkeeper Al-Habsi. The midfield will comprise of Stam, McCarthy, McArthur and Beausejour, with ex-Chelsea striker Franco Di Santo leading the line, supported by Koné and Maloney.
Wigan will look to make their numerical advantage in central midfield count by retaining the ball for longer duration at Stamford Bridge, and thereby hope that this would make not just the team but also the fans anxious. Going forward, the return of Koné will add some much need bite to the Wigan attack and his pace and movement can potentially create problems for the Chelsea defence.
Probable Starting Line-up (3-4-3): Al-Habsi; Scharner, Caldwell, Figueroa; Stam, McCarthy, McArthur, Beausejour; Maloney, Koné, Di Santo
- Chelsea have won 6 of their last 7 home matches against Wigan in all competitions.
- Chelsea have scored at least 2 goals in their last 5 matches in the Premier League.
- Wigan have failed to win 11 of their last 12 matches in the Premier League.
Player To Watch Out For
Eden Hazard (Chelsea)
Chelsea have dearly missed Eden Hazard in the last three games wherein the Belgian was serving his suspension. With him back, the attacking potency of the line-up will go up a couple of notches as his direct running, ability to beat defenders at will in one-on-one situations and link-up play with Juan Mata will surely cause the Wigan defence quite a few problems.
Chelsea 2-0 Wigan
It’s now or never for the home team; if Chelsea are to stem the rot, they need to pick themselves up, dust themselves off and deliver a result. A comfortable victory is on the cards for Rafa Benitez and his team against Wigan Athletic.
Blast From The Past